Just to be clear, I’m not a UX expert by any means. But I have been using some form of technology for almost four decades, have been closely observing design since I was a child (my father was an art director), and have an unusually large helping of common sense and behavioral intuition.
Some people just love to decry popular things. As a musician, I’ve seen it over and over as my struggling musician friends “hate” on whoever is making all the waves on radio. Now, with the boon of what is being called “flat design,” so many blog commenters as well as people I respect very, very much dismiss it as a fad. It’s not a fad. It is a logical evolution of design.
Here’s the thing: computing technology, and the interfaces that go with it, are fairly young. There are still people walking this earth that remember a time before computers. These folks, and a lot of other people like me who grew up before iPhones, are familiar with physical knobs, dials, and other such interactive elements on electronic devices. Hell, even I remember a time where you had to get up to change the channel on the television. And that television knob, and the way physical knobs work in general, became very, very familiar.
Skeuomorphism, or designing virtual interfaces to look like physical counterparts, is all for the sake of dinosaurs like me, who grew up turning volume knobs. Skeuomorphism is a way of explaining what is being seen on a screen, to people who are used to physical interfaces and tactile feedback. For youngsters who never had to turn a TV knob, such explanation is entirely unnecessary, and efficiency of experience gains precedence. And as millennials and those who have never known a world without Apple iDevices gain more and more of the population share, the clunkiness of skeuomorphism becomes more and more pointless.
While I would concur that some aspects of flat design are goofy and trivial (long shadows, anyone?), flat design is not a fad. In a way, it is a more pure, more efficient approach to interactive design, where physical input is reduced, and the path between thought and execution is shorter and less encumbered by the need to manipulate objects.
Argue about the particulars, if you like, but embrace flat design. It is as it should be.